When Your Baby Has a Hernia
Our newborn baby was only about a month old when my husband noticed something protruding from his groin. “What’s that?” he asked. “I think he has a hernia.”
My husband (a journalist) always believes he can diagnose medical issues based on the fact that he has a lot of family members who are doctors. This is not always the case. But this time he was actually right.
Our one month old son Cash did have a hernia.
What Is A Hernia?
A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin. In children, a hernia usually occurs around the belly button (umbilical hernia) or in the groin area (inguinal hernia).
How Do You Treat a Newborn’s Hernia?
Most umbilical hernias will close on their own by the time your child is one. Nearly all will close by the age of five.
It’s not quite as simple with an inguinal hernia. Your child will need a routine operation soon after the diagnosis. That’s because the intestine that is protruding outward can become stuck, meaning you can no longer push it gently back into the abdominal cavity. This can cut off the blood supply which can damage the intestine and lead to emergency surgery. So you’ll want to consult with a pediatric surgeon right away.
Preparing for My Newborn’s Pediatric Surgery
I hated the idea of my one month old son being put under anesthesia. I also had to stop breast feeding him four hours before the operation. My pediatric surgeon originally said eight hours but that seemed like a torturous amount of time to withhold milk from a newborn. “Great!” I said to the doctor. “I’ll drop him at your house and you can explain to him for eight hours why he can’t eat.”
My husband and I decided to check with the pediatric anesthesiologist at the hospital and she said the standard protocol is actually four hours for a newborn which sounded a lot less painful (for baby and mama). The pediatric surgeon agreed to the four hours. Phew!! That helped relieve my stress a great deal. (This is a good parental check – if something doesn’t feel right for your or your child, always get a second opinion.)
On the day of the surgery, our son was incredibly irritated to be denied breast milk for four hours and my husband did his best to calm him in the hospital.
My Baby’s Hernia Surgery
Then it came time to take him to the operating room. Handing my infant over to the doctors was incredibly difficult. My heart just ached for any parent who has to deal with far more serious surgeries for their children. As a mother, I feel like it is my job to protect my child and as I walked to the waiting room, I was in tears.
The surgery took about an hour and a half. Even though the hernia was on the right side, the doctor always makes an incision on the other side too because it’s so common to have hernias on both sides. And you don’t want to subject your child to another surgery. My son did have a double hernia. Which is not as cool as a double salchow, but still impressive.
Post Pediatric Hernia Surgery
After the doctor repaired both of my newborn’s hernias, we were led back to recovery where a nurse was giving Cash some sugar water from a bottle. I immediately got to hold him and start breastfeeding him. And he was hungry! I was so relieved to have my sweet boy back in my arms!
We were only in recovery for about 20 minutes and then we went back to my baby son’s room in Pediatrics. Within a few hours, we were able to take him home. If he had been less than a month old, the doctors would have required him to stay overnight.
The post-operation care instructions were pretty easy. We were told to be on the lookout for any fever (100.5 or higher) or respiratory problems that could be the sign of an infection or complication. We had to keep the incision dry (no bath for two days). We were told to put nothing on the wounds. And there were no stitches to remove either since the surgeon used a surgical tape that just dissolved on its own. We just had to do a quick check up with the surgeon a week after the hernia operation.
A day or so after the surgery, I did notice that one of his testicles was black and blue. The surgeon said this was normal and caused by some blood in his testicles. He said, we would notice it turning a bit yellow and then the testicle would return to its normal color. And that’s exactly what happened.
The doctor says the scars will be very slight and not noticeable since they are in the folds of his skin. Cash seemed pretty unfazed afterward. He is healing quickly.
In the end, the hernia surgery was way more traumatic for me than my son.